Sunday, May 30, 2004

Here are some more cliches with their everyday meanings. Because the table left such a big gap, I am going to post this set differently.

cliche ----> everyday meaning
through thick and thin ----> through good times and difficult times
hate with a passion ----> hate strongly
break a sweat ----> make a strong effort
window of opportunity ----> a brief time when there is an opportunity
got a handle on ----> got control of
live life to the fullest ----> enjoy life fully
last but not least ----> the last one mentioned is not the least important
seems like only yesterday ----> time (usually years) has passed very quickly
go with the flow ----> do not resist
set in stone ----> permanent
see the light ----> understand
a pat on the back ----> encouragement
a slap on the hand ----> a light punishment
life flash before one's eyes ----> life reviewed quickly (as when a person is in great danger)
few and far between ----> rare
brush off ----> refused to talk to or acknowledge

Sunday, May 23, 2004

More about articles:

Today, my daughter and I had this brief conversation.

Daughter: "I finished reading the book."
Me: "Lestat."
Daughter" "No, Pigman."

Lestat and Pigman are names of books. She had to read Pigman for school while she had checked out Lestat from the library on my library card.

She said the book because she knew which book and assumed I knew which book. Assuming we had the same book in mind, the would be the correct article. She and I found out, however, that I didn't know which book she was referring to.

The is used when both the speaker and the listener know which specific thing or person is being referred to. The same goes for writer and reader.

What my daughter would have said, if she knew I did not know which book she was talking about is: "I just finished reading a book." Or "I just finished reading Pigman."

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Cliches are often used in speaking and sometimes in writing. They are a type of figurative language, so they are a less direct way of making a statement. When new, they were creative and fun. However, they have become old and boring through constant use.
Here is a table with some cliches and what they mean.

clichemeaning in plain English
sent chills down my spinefelt terrified
seemed like an eternityseemed like a very long time
roll with the punchesadjust to difficulties or problems well
is a tower of strengthis a person who provides support
thin as a rail (stick)very thin
is a breezeis easy
velcroed totightly attached or bonded to
got the ball rollingbegan, got something started
moved like lightningmoved very quickly
out in left fieldnot paying attention, unaware
hot as hellextremely hot
like a chicken with its head cut offrunning around without knowing what to do
like two peas in a podvery similar
security blanketsomething that makes one feel safe
still as a statuestationary, not moving
iron out the wrinkleswork out the difficulties
right on the moneyperfect

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Absolute Phrases

I was looking over some information about absolute phrases because of a recent discussion. Essentially an absolute phrase consists of a noun and a participle.

His worries causing him to lose sleep, Devin began to have trouble staying awake at work.

She almost did not get home, her car running low on gas.

The absolute phrase modifies the independent clause or sentence, so they are sentence modifiers. Sometimes,the absolute phrase may have the more important information from the sentence in it.

The absolute phrase can be made by removing the helping verb from an independent clause connected to another independent clause. Also, the connecting word, either a subordinator or coordinating conjunction, would also be removed. So the first sentence could have been written as

His worries were causing him to lose sleep, so Devin began to have trouble staying awake at work.

By making the first clause into an absolute phrase, the writer modifies the following clause, not just Devin.

The absolute phrase differs from the participial phrase in two ways. First, the participial phrase does not have a noun in front of the participle, and the participial phrase modifies the subject.

Participial Phrase
Losing sleep because of all his worries, Devin began to have trouble staying awake at work.

Friday, May 14, 2004

In discussing articles, we often use the word definite to describe one type of article, the definite article which is the.

Definite means specific or particular, in other words, I know what you mean on the part of the reader. Definite also means unique; that is, it is the only one or only group.

When there is only one, that is unique and definite.
The earth, the world, the universe

When there are many in a category, the category or group is definite.
The stars, the planets, the Great Lakes, the Himilayas

Superlatives are definite because these are usually one or few.
The best, worst, finest, brightest, most, least
the brightest stars, the tallest buildings, the fastest runners

Prepositional phrases and adjective clauses after a noun usually make the noun more definite especially when they add information that the reader already knows.

The wing of the building
the woman who grew up in Honduras

Context influences the use. In the follow sentence, I can use either the indefinite or definite article. My choice here depends on whether or not I think the reader knows the woman I refer to.

A woman who grew up in Honduras took my class a year ago.
(I know who the woman is but the reader does not.)
The woman who grew up in Honduras took my class a year ago.
(Both I and my reader know this woman or she has been introduced before this sentence.)

Often we use the guideline that in a paragraph after the first use of the noun with an indefinite article, the definite article is used with the noun when we use the noun. This is a good general guideline, but it is not always accurate. Consider these two pairs of sentences.

My teacher assigns a paragraph every week. The paragraphs are
hard for me to write.

Here the writer refers to the paragraphs the teacher assigns. In this context, the paragraphs are definite because they are the paragraphs the teacher assigns.

My teacher assigns a paragraph every week. A paragraph is hard for me to

In this sentence, the writer makes a more general statement about about paragraphs using the indefinite article to say the writing of any paragraph is difficult.
So the guideline of repeating the same idea in the next sentence works most of the time, but it is not an absolute or unbreakable rule.